Save Your Shells: Oyster Recovery Partnership Wants 'Em!

Oysters taste even better when the autumn air is crisp, and now that oyster season is well underway, local conservationists are reminding people to save their shells.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) has more than 70 collection sites for shell recycling in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. That means whether you eat oysters at home, or you have an oyster roast with hundreds shucked, you can send those shells back into the Bay as habitat for new oysters to live on. Find the one closest to you by clicking here.

“Oyster shell is integral to the oyster restoration process, serving as the prime material and means for getting juvenile oysters into the Chesapeake Bay,” said ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel. 

In addition to its public collection sites, ORP’s Shell Recycling Alliance collects shell from 320 different seafood businesses, making it the biggest oyster shell recycling network in the country.

Businesses and individuals who recycle their shell in Maryland are eligible for a state tax credit of up to $750 annually. Learn more about this free service at

Since the Alliance’s launch in 2010, ORP has recycled 133,000 bushels, enough to support the planting of 500 million oysters in local waters.

Natural oyster shell is the preferred material for oyster larvae to attach and grow. Every half shell can host up to 10 spat, or baby oysters. Once collected, the oyster shell is aged outside for a year, washed and set with spat by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge.

-Meg Walburn Viviano